You have heard the word. You have probably been accused of having it…or even accused yourself. The word is denial. Denial is a normal survival and coping response to conflict in childhood. However, your childhood denial brought into adult experience will hurt you. What can help you in childhood can harm you in adulthood. Denial is one of those things.
Read about denial and read about Eve. Her story may be a little like yours. If you want to know more about core beliefs and inner child healing go to www.wendyhill.com.
Conflicting core beliefs develop in early childhood. This may be difficult for some to accept. Difficult because some may see their childhood as having passed without conflict, or what problems there were as having had little effect. Some people see the problems of childhood as having long since been resolved. I often hear, “I had a great childhood. My parents loved me,” or “I know my family had those problems, but they didn’t affect me,” or “I have already forgiven that,” or “When I think of that I don’t feel any conflict.” Such responses often reflect an unconscious denial of problems and conflicting feelings. Unconscious means out of the realm of consciousness. My clients are not lying to me. They are simply unaware of their hidden perceptions and feelings.
Childhood is difficult even under the best of circumstances. Even if you had wonderful parents they could not protect you from many of life’s difficulties. They could not fully protect you from childhood illnesses, the loss of a pet, accidents, family members leaving or dying, or the challenging tasks of learning how to do things. At best, life for a child is one challenge after another.
Parents are simply people doing the best they can based on their own core beliefs. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they do wonderful things. It is important for you to realize that in exploring your early programming, you are seeking to understand your own experience. Your goal is not to blame others. Your goal is to acknowledge and understand your experience. You need to learn what happened to you and how you responded. Only when you see your experience from the point of view of the child you were, do you open the door to a better life.
Eve lacked motivation. She could not seem to get any project off the ground. She procrastinated doing things she knew were important to her success and happiness. She just couldn’t seem to find the time, effort, or desire to take action. Eve was disheartened and puzzled by her behavior. Her parents had given her everything—extensive travel, special tutoring, piano, and dance lessons.
Eve told herself that she was lazy and continued to blame herself mercilessly. This, of course, made problems worse. She felt she was sinking into a bottomless pit of despair. She felt there was no way out. Eve felt ashamed of herself and decided that there must be something genetically wrong with her. By the time she came to see me, Eve had plunged into a depression.
Eve, like so many, had selective memory about her childhood, especially memories of her parents. She only remembered parents who loved and supported her. Even times of conflict were viewed through a nostalgic, sentimental cloud. I suggested that she explore her childhood to see if she could find some clue to her upsetting behavior. Eve resisted. She claimed that she had a great childhood and that the problem must be something else. She could not or would not connect her lack of motivation with her childhood experience. She continued to insist that it must be something else—what, she did not know. I suggested that it might be helpful to examine her relationship with her parents. Eve was defensive. “My parents loved me. They were not always perfect, but who is? They did the best they could. I don’t want to blame my problems on them.”
Defensiveness is often a clue to buried conflicting memories. I told Eve that she was very likely correct about her parents loving her. In many ways Eve had a good childhood. That, however, is not what Eve needed to see. Eve needed to see her parents more realistically. She needed to acknowledge their human side, to see that sometimes they made mistakes. She needed to see how some of their mistakes affected her.
Eve finally agreed to examine her childhood. She remembered that when she was about four her mother took her shopping for a party dress. Eve was very excited and wanted a particular dress to express how happy she felt inside. Mother ignored Eve’s suggestion and chose another dress herself. When Eve told me this story she told me from the point of view of herself as an adult. She said that she understood why her mother had disregarded her input. “You know what kind of taste a four year old would have. I probably wanted to wear something totally inappropriate. It was no big deal. My mother did the right thing. I understand that. The incident is all resolved.” Then I asked Eve if she would be -willing to explore the incident from the viewpoint of the four-year-old she was. She agreed. I asked her to close her eyes and imagine that she was only four years old and was with her mother in the department store. Then I asked her to describe what was happening and what she saw. She could remember smelling her new patent leather shoes and feel the excitement of being in a big department store with all the sights and colors. Then I asked her to imagine that she and her mother were in the children’s clothing department looking for her new dress. She remembered that she saw a frilly red dress with white lace trim. She fell in love with it. To her it expressed the joy she felt inside. She told her mother that she wanted to try this one on. Her mother said simply, “That dress is silly. I want you to try these on.” Eve protested and reached for the dress. Mother took her hand and prevented her from even touching it. Eve felt dismayed. Why had Mother refused to see that this was the perfect dress for her? Mother wouldn’t even listen to her. For Eve the shopping trip was ruined.
Eve was surprised to find herself crying. She said, “I had no idea that this incident affected me so deeply.” Eve had now examined her experience from the point of view of a child. Doing this had allowed Eve to learn much about herself. She learned about her buried feelings of despair and anger. She learned that she had decided that she was not supposed to have control of her life. Eve saw that there were many other times that her mother had unwittingly disregarded her desires. Eve got the message to disregard her own needs and feelings. Soon Eve stopped even knowing what she felt, needed, or wanted. Eve learned to depend on others to tell her what to do; she never learned to assert herself or develop self-motivation. She waited for direction from others. She did well in school when assignments were given to her and in a marriage where her husband told her what to do. Left to her own devices, Eve felt lost.
Rather than see her mother as having made a mistake, she had resigned herself to relentless self-judgement and depression. But now Eve could see the real genesis of her problem. She agreed to do the processes required to transform her old self-defeating beliefs into new more helpful beliefs. Afterwards she became more self-motivated. Eve learned to listen to her needs, desires, and feelings and take positive action.